How promotion was won by Chichester’s rugby heroes

Action from Chichester's memorable win over Eton Manor   Picture by Chris Hatton
Action from Chichester's memorable win over Eton Manor Picture by Chris Hatton

At the end of a truly-memorable afternoon, champagne corks were popped on the pitch as Chichester players and hundreds of their supporters celebrated promotion to National three south.

The play-off against Eton Manor had been tense and exciting with the 25-16 victory only emerging in the last quarter of the game. Chi had trailed 16-7 at the interval but fought back brilliantly to score 18 points without reply.

Eton Manor were tough opponents and will be disappointed they fell short at the final hurdle for the second time. They were sporting in defeat and joined in the raucous singing contest later in the clubhouse.

Chi won by four tries, a conversion and penalty to two tries and two penalties. They deserved the prize after their three narrow misses in 2011, 2012 and 2013 and they will look forward to visiting new venues and to challenges against very strong clubs.

See our video highlights from the day here

See a gallery of pictures by Chris Hatton here

Chi were in their change strip of red and light blue. Moses Kasujja ran on first as this was his last game - he is retiring because of an arthiritic hip. He has been an outstanding No8 and, for a long time, captain and can be very proud of his achievements. He will be sorely missed.

The touchlines and clubhouse were packed with supporters from both clubs urging on their favourites.

Manor kicked off, Chi failed to gather and were soon penalised at a scrum in front of the posts. Fly-half McKie slotted the kick easily.

Richard Adams and Henry Anscombe put long touch kicks to the right corner for driving lineouts which Manor repelled, showing skill at the turnover.

After they had been penalised for obstruction on the Manor throw, a maul towards the try line was killed by a flanker coming in at the side and he was given the first yellow card.

Sam Renwick made a half break, the pack rucked, Adams dummied and shot through a gap, rounding for the try to make his own conversion easy.

.Manor hit back and handled well, winning a penalty just outside the Chi 22. McKie made it 7-6. Another infringement by Chi at the lineout and Manor attacked the left flank. They cleverly switched direction with an accurate high kick to the right wing and outside centre Mowbray went over. The conversion hit the post but they led 11-7.

They pressed again helped by a wind-assisted bounce and right winger Eghan was dangerous with great pace, but running laterally instead of straight.

Nick Blount was yellow carded at a lineout for pulling his opponent in the air but it seemed harsh. Manor took advantage and the ball was transferred with good hands out to Eghan, who had an overlap and only had to dot down for their second try at the corner. Manor must have been confident with their 16-7 lead at the break.

Chi restarted still a man down but were in determined mood and attacked through the central channel with Renwick threatening but knocked back by a firm tackle. He and Jack Bentall were having quite a battle with their opposite numbers.

Manor missed a long penalty and in the only unsavoury incident of the game, their openside flanker was lucky to escape with a yellow rather than red card when he punched Ben Polhill on the ground.

Hooker Dane Gingell was throwing accurately and Phil Dickin set up a drive which was held once more by a well-drilled defence.

With Blount back, Chi went up a gear. They swarmed to Vultures’ Corner and Gingell peeled off the maul to crash over on the blindside. A missed conversion meant it was 16-12.

An Adams chip over the top saw Bentall, Tom Belcher and Anscombe combining for a chance spoiled by a knock-on.

Manor counter-attacked from a ruck but suffered the same fate.

The Chi forwards were now in full stride and linking with the back-line. They hurtled to Vultures’ Corner for another attempt. After lineout, drive and inter-passing, the onrushing Belcher broke through with ball in hand.

He drew a tackler and fed the powerful Chris Johnson supporting down the touchline. A last tackle was made but Johnson went through it and crashed across. A great roar from the very vocal crowd saluted a well-worked try, clinically finished.

Chi were ahead at last but Manor held firm as Chi turned the screw and another chance went begging through a forward pass.

Manor were tiring in the pack and Chi seized the moment, Bentall offloading to Renwick who made a scintillating outside break and raced 30 metres to score Chi’s fourth try. The conversion hit the post.

There was great noise from Chi’s supporters with only five minutes plus added time left - but they needed to put the game beyond Manor’s reach.

Chi attacked in force and won a penalty as Manor tried desperately to keep them out. Adams calmly stroked the ball through the uprights. The whistle blew after the dropout and Chi had done he job.

Both teams had given everything and it had been a wonderful occasion.

Congratulations go to the squad, director of rugby Paul Colley and head coach Rob Lawrence for all the hard work which has brought due reward.

The club are in good shape and the clubhouse will be extended and refurbished this summer, as befits a national three club.

The Blues will greatly appreciate all support next season with Chichester in the big-time.

CHICHESTER: Turner, Gingell, Woods, Dickin, Blount, Goldie, Polhill, Kasujja, Toone, Adams, Driscoll, Bentall, Renwick, Golds, Anscombe, Belcher, Lindsay, Johnson, Robson.

ROGER GOULD

See this week’s Observer for all the action and reaction and a wealth of pictures from the promotion win